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Animation and Anime

Richard Williams' Un-tampered with THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER coming to DVD'

Folks, Harry here with this Coax bit. If you are an animation fan, then you are probably are aware of the butchering of Williams' work of love... THIEF AND THE COBBLER, which was released... if memory serves as ARABIAN NIGHTS... The style of animation contained in this wondrous work is unique beyond most anything you've seen. Vincent Price is great in it. And hopefully this will be coming to my DVD shelf soon...

Harry and compadres:

I was one of a lucky 75 (or so) animators who attended the Richard Williams Animation Masterclass in L.A. last weekend. Even though he said he wasn't there to talk about "Thief and the Cobbler" (I guess questions about it have long annoyed and distracted him, and he wanted to make clear he was here to teach animators, not to reminisce about how his masterwork had been gutted by a bond company...), he couldn't help himself but to mention to us this fantastic bit of news: he said he had "substantiated" that efforts had been approved and will go forward to at last offer the REAL Thief & the Cobbler on DVD. I posted Richard's exact comments as best as I have notes on them, on my website: CLICK HERE TO SEE IT!!!

I hope you fellas can dig up more on this great news-item,

your friend,

Zig Zagger

Readers Talkback
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  • April 20, 2000, 6:52 a.m. CST


    by Teko

    If Richard Williams is correct, and the studio's not just stringing him along, this'll be a tremendous achievement. "The Thief and the Cobbler" is in some ways the "Magnificent Ambersons" of animation...a nearly-completed masterwork by a genuis of the medium that was taken away and mangled before its completion. I have no idea how Williams created some of the mindblowing animation in this film, but it's a sight to behold.

  • April 20, 2000, 8 a.m. CST

    What did I see in the theater?

    by RK Maroon

    I saw 'The Thief and The Cobbler' in the theater. Are you telling me that that wasn't Williams' vision and/or version? Or are you just talking about a video release called 'Arabian Nights'? I'm corn-fused. Someone got backstory on this?

  • April 20, 2000, 8:09 a.m. CST

    forget Aladdin - THIS is genius!!!

    by half vader

    Disney sat up and took notice? They sure did - ripped it off completely and called it Aladdin! I thought their swiping of Kimba the white Lion for Lion King was shameless enough - but this! _______________Everybody in the industry knew about T & the C, as the thing was in production for about thirty damn years. THAT is why he finds it hard to talk about; I went to the masterclass in Sydney last year and he told me that he has nightmares about it, and then he wakes up and the reality of it is even worse!! God I hope this is true. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.......

  • April 20, 2000, 8:24 a.m. CST


    by half vader

    This movie was released in different territories with different names. The ones I've heard are Thief and the Cobbler, Princess and the Cobbler, and Arabian Nights. Not only that, but there are different cuts/mutilations. The english version is bad enough, with all the horrible Don Bluth (Ireland) Studios animation cut in and etra songs, but God help us - the U.S. is even worse. Everyone who heaps praise on Miramax for the Miyazaki films can stop right now. Their version is so bad it makes me physically angry. At least in the English cut the thief is mute. The U.S. version has a completely redundant Jonathan Winters voice for the thief, committing the cardinal sin of animation: having the character's dialogue describe exactly what is already happening. I bought the U.S. laserdisc becaus I wanted he full cinemascope version - they recast most of the other voices too (so forget good lipsync)! Matthew Broderick plays Tak. Thank God they didn't replace Vicent Price or I think Williams would have commited suicide.

  • April 20, 2000, 8:50 a.m. CST

    its not that great

    by Baked Spam

    ive seen the non butchered version and let me tell you its not that great...story wise. animation wise its downright brilliant. everything shot on 1's my god, the card trick scene, the chase in the checkered hallway, man, this is some amazing stuff. but then again the story is horrid. sure it was bad with jonathan winters and matthew broderick when miramax released it, but the way richard williams wrote it was downright unbearable. confusing with huge gaps. this movie was thirty years in the making, but the story was more like thirty seconds.

  • April 20, 2000, 8:51 a.m. CST


    by Blabbermouse

    ... with a "K", is the name it was released under theatrically in NY a few years back. I was blown away by Williams' animation & design,but the characters all seemed terribly 2-dimension (*NO* pun intended), showing no personality whatever. I scored the laser disc as well to have the widescreen version intact - which had the original T&C title! ~~~~~~ I agree as to total uselessness of J.Winters babbling away over his mute character's scenes - reminds me of what Peter Ustinov did to Sanrio's animated version of Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' - retitled it into 'Winds of Change' & had Ustinov yak endlessly & pointlessly over the film. ~~~~~~ Still, I wonder if reverting to Williams' original conception of T&C will bring his characters any more to life, as it seemed - even in the as-released version - that Williams was far more interested in the film's visuals than its characters.

  • April 20, 2000, 9:16 a.m. CST

    Thief and the Cobbler website

    by Nora Charles

    My husband has put together a terrific site about Richard William's film. He attended an early animation masterclass in San Francisco. Check it out!

  • April 20, 2000, 10:46 a.m. CST

    Guh! Guh! GUH!

    by Prankster

    Ohmigod ohimgod ohmigod!!!! I looooooove this film, even watching the horrific American cut (with Johnathon Winters, the Mad Holy Witch completely cut out, songs added, etc.) I was completely blown backwards and out of the room. I simply couldn't believe that someone had made such an inventive, original work of animation...something that looked gorgeous and completely unlike anything we'd ever seen before. I hope this movie can now be seen without the serious flaws that took it down so many pegs. For those of you who've never seen it, it's like "Yellow Submarine" meets "Aladdin" (as someone pointed out above, Aladdin was completely ripped off T&C, design-wise) combined with M.C. Escher's sensibility, and raised to the nth power. The fact that this astonishing animation was all done BY HAND--some of it looks as elaborate as CG aniamtion, with insanely elaborate objects, shifts in perspective, huge marching armies--is mind-blowing. I've since seen the unedited version, and while I agree the story was lacking, it's not fair to criticize because Williams never had a chance to finish the damn thing! The story was evoloving, as the fairly well-done ending (storywise, not animationwise) to the butchered version proves. Anyway, the unedited version I saw was a sixth genereation dub and murky as hell. To see it in bright, bold colours and crystal clarity on DVD...may rearrange the molecules of my frontal lobes. Animation fans, take note!

  • April 20, 2000, 11:08 a.m. CST

    I never knew...

    by All Thumbs

    I've seen "The Thief and the Cobbler" as "Arabian Knights" on T.V. and found myself mesmerized by the beauty and complexity of the animation. I liked "Alladin" but this movie blows it out of the water and makes it look like scribbles on a napkin. To find that there not only exists some uncut version of it and to hear some remarkable tales of the movie's history makes me giddy with excitement that it can all be revealed on DVD. (And I thought that was Vincent Price...just wasn't sure because of the release date. Winters is annoying in the movie. Broderick is just fine and adds a certain child-like naivity to the role.) I'm crossing my fingers, toes and eyes for this one to happen soon!

  • April 20, 2000, 12:05 p.m. CST

    This is SILLY!

    by Irie

    "Thief and the Cobbler" wasn't sabotaged by Warners or a Bond Company. It was BUTCHERED by them, but it was SABOTAGED by Richard Williams and his unwillingness to complete the film on a schedule and budget AGREED TO BY HIMSELF!. It has beautiful artwork and interesting animation--but no story or realy character to speak of in any way. I love Williams' commercials and all of his special projects (titles...), and even love to watch the animation in "Theif (I've had the rough cut on video for years)--and I would be the first in line to get this DVD--but the film as a story is really weak. Williams has stated on many occasions that if there was a particular scene he wanted to animate, he'd find a way to put it in the story (he actually called it [quote] "My Mammoth Ego Trip" on the documentary about Thief done by the BBC about 15 years ago.). Sounds like the cart driving the horse. And the animation in Roger Rabbit isn't so good. It's like a bunch of ugly, airbrushed water balloons, with no control or appeal whatsoever. At least Thief has STYLE.

  • April 20, 2000, 8:14 p.m. CST


    by hangdog

    Richard Williams is an absolute animation genious and any opinion otherwise isn't worth the toilet paper that I just wiped my ass with! I too attended the San Francisco addition of his class that one of the other readers refers to above and he is a major influence in my animation career. I have also seen a sixth generation dub of his uncut movie and it so beautifully animated that it 'll make you cry! Contrarians GO HOME!!!... cause you're not winning this one.

  • April 20, 2000, 8:34 p.m. CST

    judging fairly...

    by half vader

    I think that we can only really judge how lacking the story or characters are once we see the final director's version (if this is all true and really happens on the DVD). I'm not talking about "lowering our expectations" like the TPM apologists admonish us to do - much as I love SW, that's just a load of bollocks. Take Babe for example - a brilliant example of not writing down to kids. That story and dialogue worked at EVERY level, adult and kids alike. The herculean task of being simple without being simplistic. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that if the T & the C story sucks, we should call it as such. - Animation virtuosity notwithstanding. As for an unblighted version, as far as Williams was aware it has NEVER been seen. To be fair though he probably wouldn't be the most up to date on it, considering the mention of its name is like tiny daggers to him. The English version is fiddled with too. All I can gather is that you guys have seen a version containing pencil animation and unfinished scenes. As far as shooting on ones goes, Williams uses both (in this film also) and mixes them with the general rule of thumb being that slower action goes on ones (like the chili bottle in Roger Rabbit). Sorry for going on, but just let me say that the machine's destruction totally freaks me out. How anybody could attempt those feats of perspective without computers almost beggars belief. ______P.S. Sorry for my typos in the earlier posts. I got a bit excited. Irie, you don't happen to have a copy of that BBC special on tape, do you? My animation teacher showed it to me back in '88, and my eyes nearly dropped out of my head. I MUST have it!

  • April 21, 2000, 1:48 a.m. CST

    excellent! That would be a happier ending to this whole sad stor

    by Tom Veil

    Disney complete shafted Williams, and raped his wonderous film... at least this way he will be able to get a "closer to what he intended" version of it out there for the public. I'm not sure how HE will pull this off with all the the copyrights Disney firmly embedded into the man's work.

  • April 21, 2000, 2:09 a.m. CST

    Etc etc etc

    by Animator

    It's interesting that yet another hybrid cut of T&C was released here in Australia. It includes certain scenes cut out of other versions - and yet emits some of the other yukier added parts (there's no Jonathan Winters audio for example). I'm looking forward to a new release rather a lot. As an added note - anyone who has an interest in the field and can get to one of Richards Masterclasses should scrape up the bucks to do so. I did the Sydney course and it was bloody marvellous even for a poxy animator like me who works in Tasmania.

  • April 21, 2000, 4:06 a.m. CST

    dear nora...

    by half vader

    Your husband's site is kewl. I first went there about a year ago after doing a search on Williams' name. Cool pad, too!

  • April 21, 2000, 4:08 a.m. CST

    Thief & Cobbler

    by Redbeard_NV

    Q: Did William's original feature the rather insipid mublings of Johnathan Winters? Don't get me wrong, I've loved and admired Johnathan's work since I was a kid, they just seem out of place in the movie! They remind me of the test screening I saw years ago of Metamorphosis which featured no dialogue or narration, but then was released with one of Peter Ustinov's less insprired narration. Ruined it fo rme big time! As for Vincent Price, "Champagne For Ceaser" rules! He of the magenta mug!

  • April 21, 2000, 9:59 a.m. CST

    The Thief and the Cobbler

    by M.C.Cann

    Well thank god there is finally some progress. Here in the U.K. there has never been any version of the film released (although I remember being blown away by a substantial trailer in 1991, before a screening of (the lamentable) "Highlander ii"). Indeed, very few people in the U.K. outside of animation circles have ever even heard of it; the fiasco over its butchering was all but ignored by all the major film magazines- I'm currently pestering them for some in-depth features on what may well be the greatest piece of animation ever produced.I pride myself on having screened my excellent first gen. workprint copy to several hundred students while working as a drama teacher, and I entreat anyone interested in this astonishing film to check out eddie bowser's superb site a.s.a.p. I'd welcome any correspondence from afficianados of this film, as would my bro', who is a professional animator. The U.K needs this film- here's to the D.V.D!! If your in the U.K. and want a copy, contact me and I'll sort something out.

  • April 21, 2000, 10:50 a.m. CST

    The BBC documentaries

    by tack

    Those BBC documentaries are great. AFAIK there are three: Animating Art - Concentrates on Art Babbitt and his work on The Thief. I Drew Roger Rabbit - Done when that film came out but has a whole lot of stuff on making The Thief. The Animator Who Never Gave Up? (not totally sure about this title) - This one was done in the 70's and shows footage not in any released version of the film including the work print. -Tack (aka Eddie Bowers)

  • April 21, 2000, 5:17 p.m. CST

    Williams' version

    by tack

    Williams' version is about 75% complete with finished animation and color. The other scenes exist as rough animation, storyboards and pose tests. Williams' work print shows us how the film was supposed to be. Some scenes that exist in the work print as incomplete appear to be complete in the Miramax version, so taking that into account a hybrid could be put together with all of the finished animation leaving the unfinished parts as they exist in the work print.

  • April 21, 2000, 5:22 p.m. CST

    Williams' version

    by tack

    Williams' version is about 75% complete with finished animation and color. The other scenes exist as rough animation, storyboards and pose tests. Williams' work print shows us how the film was supposed to be. Some scenes that exist in the work print as incomplete appear to be complete in the Miramax version, so taking that into account a hybrid could be put together with all of the finished animation leaving the unfinished parts as they exist in the work print.

  • April 23, 2000, 7:21 a.m. CST

    Long, boring and beautiful...

    by Petersen

    Having been in the animation bizz since 1978, of course I have seen a sneek preview of Thief. It was beautiful to watch, but in the long run, it became VERY long and boring. There is about 25% missing - I wish it was all the transitional footage, of which there's a lot in the picture. Also, doing such a lot of very hard work making such beautiful animation out of so little story material is an awsome feat in itself ;^) I remember a picture of Dick sitting on his table, a sign over his head 'simple is best'... Wonder what he used it for?

  • May 15, 2000, 5:03 p.m. CST


    by Iset

    I was wondering if anyone knows any Arabian Knights/Theif and the Cobbler pages other than Eddie Bowers.

  • Aug. 16, 2000, 11:41 a.m. CST

    Disney didn't change the film!!!

    by dumboman

    Tom Veil said.... "Disney complete shafted Williams, and raped his wonderous film... at least this way he will be able to get a "closer to what he intended" version of it out there for the public. I'm not sure how HE will pull this off with all the the copyrights Disney firmly embedded into the man's work." Disney didn't have anything to do with the film before Roy Disney took on the project! so dont blame disney for something CBS did! Dumboman